IoT infrastructure in smart cities has found thousands of vocal advocates. By adopting IoT technologies, connected cities are making huge upgrades to their existing infrastructure while building capacity for IoT devices. To implement this smart infrastructure, cities are looking for the most rational connectivity options — and low-power wide area (LPWA) networking technologies look like they might be it. Two of these technologies are LoRa and LoRaWAN. What is LoRa about and why do we consider it the best option for smart city and building applications?
What is LoRa technology about?
LoRa and LoRaWAN are non-cellular LPWAN wireless communication protocols. LoRa is the radio layer enabling long-range communication. LoRaWAN is both the communication protocol and system architecture for IoT networks. The LoRa/LoRaWAN technology stack is the best choice for connected cities because of its long signal range and minimal power requirements. Depending on conditions, signals can reach 10 to 15 kilometers.
In 2022, LPWA revenues from equipment and associated services will reach $56 billion.
LoRa is owned by Semtech. At the same time, the LoRaWAN ecosystem includes a variety of sensor, chip, and device manufacturers, base station and server vendors, and other service providers. They’re all gathered in the LoRa Alliance, one of the fastest-growing tech associations globally. The mission of the LoRa Alliance is to promote both LPWAN connectivity and IoT ecosystems worldwide.
LoRaWAN and LoRa communication protocols overcome challenges of IoT deployments in commercial and industrial settings. These LPWAN protocols are energy-efficient and offer a comparatively inexpensive way to implement the IoT backbone of connected cities. No wonder LoRaWAN is one of the most widely adopted LPWAN protocols, with 600 known use cases and 97 million devices connected to networks in 100 countries (and counting).
Potential of LoRa and LoRaWAN for smart cities
Digitalizing cities is expensive but inevitable. Multiple stakeholders in the connected city paradigm have always been interested in making cities not only connected but economically attractive and eco-friendly. LoRa technology has many benefits that allow it to become an integral part of a digitalization strategy. Check out the list of features and see the benefits for yourself.
Ultra-low energy consumption. Compared to other data transmission protocols, LoRaWAN requires little power, preserving the battery life of devices.
Range. The wider the coverage, the better and cheaper the IoT infrastructure. With LoRaWAN, the range is nearly 5 kilometers in urban settings and 15 kilometers in suburban areas.
Cost efficiency. LoRaWAN architecture is comparatively easy to deploy within IoT infrastructure. Deployment on frequencies that don’t require licensing and low-cost base stations make LoRaWAN applications economically viable. Add to this the low cost of LoRaWAN IoT devices that can run for years on the same battery and reduced site visit costs for device maintenance.
Open-source. Being an open-source protocol, LoRa covers all the community best practices. LoRa Alliance members do their part to propel LoRa-powered IoT initiatives.
Bi-directional communication. LoRa-enabled IoT network units (sensors, for instance) can both transmit and receive data. Sending data to networks and receiving information in return, LoRa equipment can deliver status messages even to remote locations.
GPS-free localization. When a device is transmitting to at least three gateways, LoRaWAN applications can compute the approximate origin of the signal using a triangulation technique similar to GPS but more energy- and cost-efficient.
Good building penetration and low path loss. LoRa radio waves can pass through obstacles and reach sensors indoors, such as those placed in elevators, basements, or underground parking garages.
LoRaWAN transmission and penetration scheme
Source: SmartMakers – LoRaWAN Range Part 2: Range and Coverage of LoRaWAN in Practice (Updated)
Use cases of LoRaWAN within a smart city
LoRaWAN promises the pervasive connectivity that IoT infrastructure requires. The next demand is to keep the network and its management as simple as possible. In smart city connectivity, this means smooth operation across vast distances where low capacity is required. Smart cities include many such areas. Smart traffic and waste management, energy consumption tracking, environmental metering, parking and lighting monitoring, fire detection systems and alarms — all of these are pillars of the smart city concept. And none of them necessarily requires large volumes of data. Small sensor data packages can be used for alarm, triggering, and monitoring purposes. Sounds like a perfect task for LoRaWAN, which is very battery-efficient yet very slow for sending heavy files.
LoRaWAN use cases within a smart city
Source: Сisco – LoRa – Emerging IoT Technology Accelerating Service Provider and Smart City Services
LoRaWAN application – Calgary set up a technological ecosystem using LoRaWAN
Calgary, a tech gem of Canada, has used a LoRaWAN network as the skeleton for its large-scale IoT system. A LoRaWAN wireless signal covers a large area including the busy downtown and most of the city’s facilities in remote parts of Calgary. The network can now be used for real-time monitoring and management of air quality, soil conditions, and watering. The installed water level sensors have already helped authorities forecast and get ready for potential river flooding, which is a pressing issue in the region.
Smart buildings are vast areas open to LoRaWAN optimization
Building and facility automation comprises all of a building’s critical systems such as lighting, climate control, fire alarms, security, and more. We’ve already learned that LoRa allows sensors to operate for years without a constant power supply. This is especially convenient for locations that are hard to reach. Instead of focusing on regular maintenance of expensive sensors, businesses can set up infrastructure and focus efforts and investments on business-critical tasks. LoRa doesn’t require highly skilled technicians for either installation or maintenance.
LoRa offers building owners and businesses the ability to reduce operating expenses. Lowering energy costs, increasing tenant satisfaction, and raising property values helps businesses and building owners generate new revenue sources. On top of that, the thousands of sensors in facilities such as factories will multiply the return on investment.
Smart building applications featuring LoRa technology: What can businesses use them for?
Energy management. LoRaWAN brings together all energy-related systems for smart building management: lighting, heating, cooling, fire safety. The LoRaWAN communication protocol effectively connects them to help control and reduce power consumption.
Water leakage detection. In smart buildings, LoRaWAN is an integral part of smart water supply infrastructure. Empowering sensors, gateways, and water meters, LoRaWAN systems can considerably reduce operating costs related to water leakage and prevent serious damage to buildings.
Smart building security. Offices, factories, administrative institutions, and all other forms of smart buildings need to be protected against fire, natural calamities, and unauthorized entrance. Using LoRaWAN, windows, doors, fire alarms, motion-detecting sensors, and emergency buttons can be organized into a secure alarm system.
Building safety inspection. Even in remote areas, buildings can be equipped with various LoRa-based sensors on the walls, roofs, or foundations. This way, building owners or inspectors can keep control of deformation, temperature, moisture level, and other chemical, mechanical, and physical parameters of the building.
Work space optimization. Data gathered by LoRa-enabled devices helps to optimize office premises. The office environment can be reshaped according to foot traffic, geolocation, and real-time space availability. This helps to raise employee satisfaction while improving the safety of work areas and using office resources rationally.
LoRaWAN application – LoRaWAN system helped a shopping mall reduce operating expenses
Situated in the capital of Slovenia, BTC City Ljubljana is a 475,000-square-meter business, shopping, entertainment, and recreation center with 50+ facilities. Given its size, BTC City was a great pilot building for a LoRa-enabled integrated energy and water consumption system. In BTC City Ljubljana , LoRaWAN sensors and smart meters gather and send data on electricity, heat, natural gas, and water consumption. Next, data from all facilities is sent to the software processing platform. The platform processes and analyzes the data to generate automated reports. This way, management can receive a detailed picture of energy use to control and manage it effectively. Finally, BTC management has reduced energy losses caused by water leaks by 6%, lowered overall energy consumption by 5%, and cut water leaks by 90%.
To cover the wide area of the mall, only two LoRaWAN gateways were used instead of the dozens of Wi-Fi access points that would have been required. In took no more than one week for BTC City to deploy a private LoRaWAN network.
The bottom line
LoRa technology is one of the latest and most discussed IoT innovations in terms of smart city connectivity. The LoRa and LoRaWAN protocols stand out among the variety of IoT connectivity protocols. All over the world, they’re recognized as perfect connectivity technologies for various use cases related to smart buildings, traffic and waste management, environmental metering, and parking monitoring. Consult Intellias experts to find out more about the best LPWAN network for your IoT project.